There is Movement of the Mind, And There is Sound, by Joseph Bouthiette Jr.

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THERE IS MOVEMENT OF THE MIND, AND THERE IS SOUND
For Aleathia Drehmer

EXHIBIT A: In Face [Self, Fulfilling] In Ass

I. Cursory_55”to work”//
Scene: Defeat

The protagonist is described by means of the film, the moon, and the calls he wishes to cross the border. As I understand it, besides the eyes of his will and the color of his skin, there is nothing else to leak.

 

II. Depthless_55”world challenge”//
Scene: The Challenges of Space

I want to be the invisible layer that gives quiet to the cats. The protagonist may well deal with my sound. This is perfect, though initially it may have been longer.

 

III. Farcical_55”united against the law”//
Scene: Illegal Alien

The marquess may solve many summer problems of the protagonist. This is an unacceptable waste. I cannot remember much of luxury or the wet areas. A million physical injuries close with a moral.

 
EXHIBIT B: The Sickness of Prophecies In Us

IV. Inconsiderable_55”antibodies”//
Scene: Disgust

The color of strength. Dry as the highway shot with oil. The protagonist gives to himself the gift of the poor and the needy. I have taken his looks. He feels. His body feels.

 

V. Meaningless_55”I am pregnant”//
Scene: Absinthe

And on his head is a beautiful temple held by a small rope. There is an honesty to the work. The flaming glass of perfect beauty. I will show the protection of insanity.

 

VI. Paltry_55”a road”//
Scene: Obsessions

There are scrolls in the library. The second storey is dry and possesses many documents. It lies in the sunshine, with a warm flexibility in the heart and body.

 
EXHIBIT C: [Up] Evil Health All Confabulations [Down]

VII. Shallow_55”the queen”//
Scene: Queen of the Bees

He insulates young animals. His foot will not move without first being cut. The garlic opens, shy. The protagonist is beautiful and natural, and I am discarding water.

 

VIII. Trifling_55”drama”//
Scene: A Wet Dream

The color of bones in hands. There are many things between here and there, foot and food.

 

IX. Vain_55”order of the office”//
Scene: The Horde

An albatross is replaced with support of the faithful. The protagonist dreams in his sleep. There are radiant eyes, faces that break, lips that enter. The protagonist and I strive to pass away.

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Joseph Bouthiette Jr. is the main brain behind Carrion Blue 555, Scrimshaw Obscura, Molten Molecular Minutiae, and Red Slur Records. His fiction and poetry have appeared in print and online in Lost Signals, Strange Behaviors, Hellscape, Obscurum, and Durable Goods, among others. He is an avid tabletop gamer and most definitely a cat person.

 

Into the Avant-Garde: De Stijl

I’m currently trading David Hopkins’ Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, alongside several books coming up for review, including Vincenzo Bilof’s The Violators and Philip Fracassi’s Shiloh. I’m doing this because I am woefully ignorant of the Dada and Surrealism movements. I figured if I’m going to run a blog about weird art, I better change this, and quickly.

Academically, I can only speak from my experience in the English department, but Dada and Surrealism was virtually absent from the curriculum when I was earning my BA. I don’t know if this holds true for other fine arts departments. Either way, I am documenting my Dada and Surrealism education here, appended with an invitation to readers who wish to join the journey.

In short, I plan to write a quick overview of movements, artists, and works I am unfamiliar with as I come across them in Hopkins’ book. I often find the best way to master a subject is to write about it, and I hope readers might find something of worth in my amateurish ramblings.

De Stijl

Composition

Theo van Doesburg, 1923

De Stijl, or “The Syle” in Dutch, aslo known as “Neoplasticism,” is cited by Hopkins as an early manifestation of avant-garde art, and one of Dada and Surrealism’s forerunner movements. The movement was founded in Leiden in 1917.

What I’m not going to do is summarize Wikipedia. I have read the Wikipedia article myself, and advise you to do so if you want a historical overview. In these posts, I intend to formulate a response to these movements. Silent Motorist Media, after all, was never intended to offer readers mere data. Here we revel in the arts. To revel is to celebrate in a Bacchanalian spirit of intoxication. Nothing is further from us in spirit than Wikipedia (although Wikipedia is awesome for its own purposes).

Neoplasticism utilizes a stripped-down pallette of primary colors, non-colors, and basic geometrical shapes to reconnect the audience with the abstract forms of experience. In this way, it seems to imply an emphasis of a mathematical primacy, similarly articulated in Alain Badiou’s philosophy. As avant-garde art tends to do, Neoplasticism seeks to seize art from the bourgeoisie and return it to the realm of universal experience in a modern world. This may seem strange, since a highly abstracted style only counterintuitively relates to everyday life.

Composition No. 10

Piet Mondrian, 1942

I recognized Neoplasticism immediately as “the fucking squares,” as I called the movement before reading about it. I’ve seen Mondrians in museums dozens of times, and never really could connect with them. I’ve always felt that the style pushes the distance between viewer and painting to the furthest extremes. I can now appreciate the intention behind Neoplasticism, but am still unable to find it aesthetically moving.

I am no art critic by any means. I am much more at home with literature than with music or painting. I am, however, moved by art in my capacity as a viewer, and am able to identify elements that elevate encounters with works of art to something beyond interactions with everyday objects. Neoplasticism fails to capture the quality of this transcendence, in my opinion. It seems, however, to do something important: it challenges the interprative mandate traditionally centered around the arts.

Neoplasticist literature would be immensely boring. It would contain little content in favor of an excess of form. I suspect it would look something like the following paragraph:

A preceds B, and B preceds C. D follows C, and is followed by E, etc.

Here, the formal elements of grammar are emphasized by emptying these sentences of content. An argument could be made that the very concept of meaning in art is radically challenged by literature of this sort. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call this subversion interesting, whether it’s important or not.

Neoplasticism is the beginning of a movement towards artistic radicalization that would eventually birth Dada and Surrealism. Does that make it “weird?” My amateur response is that “weird” art must meet the audience half way. This does not mean that it must embrace popular conceptions of content and form. On the contrary, weird art rejects popular digestibility and challenges the culture of instant gratification. However, it also resists explanation. This does not mean that it rejects meaning; rather, it turns meaning into an interrogative, leaving it open to a certain mystery that is anything but meaningless. Weird art turns the apparatus of meaning against the audience and presents it as a gap. This gap is an invitation, the halfway point at which the audience meets the work in a moment of awakened curiosity.

Neoplasticism cannot inspire curiosity. It fails to communicate. This should not erase its historical importance as an idea. It is an initial, invaluable, but ultimately failed thrust at the weird.

Architectural Analysis

Theo van Doesburg, 1923

Disagree? Please let me know in the comments! Again, this is an initial reaction to a movement I’m unfamiliar with in a field far from my own comfort zone. I am always happy to learn from the opinions of others.

© 2018 Silent Motorist Media

Daulton Dickey’s Flesh Made World: A Review and Analysis

There’s something deeply unsettling about a weird fiction writer (for lack of an appropriately defined label) who takes his or her own work seriously. Daulton Dickey is one of these writers. Seriousness is certainly not the “norm” around here, and it’s not a bad thing. All the nasty jokes and satirical hilarity is what the lenses of our inverse eclipse glasses are made of, after all. We’d go blind from staring into the black incisions our writing teases into existence otherwise. These incisions are gaps of the unknown, and it’s my conviction that weird fiction’s job is to create them. Allow me to elaborate on this claim, since it is far too vital in my analysis of Dickey’s work to merely mention in passing.

Weird fiction is a post-enlightenment program of reconstruction. The reason that money and rationality can never become gods, despite frequent warnings to the contrary proffered by well-meaning critics of capitalism, is because both elements are essentially quantitative. Only the unknown (and therefore unquantifiable) can become holy, as Adorno points out in The Dialectic of Enlightenment, and the holy, as we no longer require philosophers to point out, is dead.

Weird fiction doesn’t seek to restore the irrationality of God. It does, however, sanctify protected gardens against the rationalist dominion. The post-enlightenment graveyard of quantities is where weird fiction mines the dark matter used to manufacture miniature household inversions of Christ. Weird fiction transcends atheism in favor of a limited polytheism, seeking to restore the paradox of confined infinity best exemplified by the tribal and household gods of antiquity. The dusty remnants blanketing enlightenment’s battlefield contain trace elements of the old magic stolen from nature. This dust is the alchemical writer’s lapis philosophorum: the word radically liberated from denotation by the excesses of rationality.

It is no wonder, then, that the weird fiction frequently lapses into laughter marked by the fear and celebration inherent in holy ecstasy. What experimental writer, having written something visceral, tortured, and genuinely new (a genuine event, in other words, even if only for the writer) hasn’t said to herself, “enough is enough. It’s time for a joke.” This is a deeply human response to the magic of the unknown. To stare into the gap without flinching is something else entirely. And while Daulton Dickey’s 2017 novel Flesh Made World has its subdued moments of humor, its gaze is steady and fearless.

It’s a meditation on grief, an exploration of time, a surrealist depiction of depression, a fictional discourse on consciousness, an enthusiastic affirmation of the unconscious, a suicide letter. Flesh Made World is all of these, but most importantly, it is a fearless probing of the universe dividing all sentient beings, the external mirror image of all gaps we consistently rediscover in language. Dickey handles exactly this intersection between language and perception explicitly, adding a philosophical depth uncommon in contemporary fiction to Flesh Made World’s long list of literary merits.

Sarah and Daulton (yes, there is a metafictional element, which avoids coming across as gimmicky due to its plaintive sincerity), anchored by intensive moments of pain, grope their way through a dark, incomprehensible world in search of an authentic moment of connection. Connections are important in Flesh Made World, since these are what have been irrecoverably lost to the past and revisited with fetishizing intensity. In this way, Flesh Made World is also a touching description of loneliness. As Dickey writes, “Loneliness doesn’t by necessity entail the absence of other people. Sometimes loneliness is derived from missed or failed connections; sometimes loneliness is the product of less-than-ideal means of communicating or interacting with others” (Location 1825).

It is exactly these moments of missed connections that signal the holy gaps in Dickey’s novel. These are the rips in the fabric of Daulton and Sarah’s fluid residence in time, more real and vivid to them than the fading world of phenomenon (if, as Dickey constantly asks us, such a distinction is even tenable). Who, out of those of us who have sensed the vivid being of a vacancy left by death, would fail to grasp the import of Dickey’s “missed or failed” connections? Who, having read the book, would dare say that such vacancies aren’t aptly rendered in Flesh Made World? But they are not merely “rendered.” Dickey doesn’t stop at mimesis but transgresses into the world of ecstatic worship.

This transgression is both Dickey’s strength and the truly experimental aspect of Flesh Made World. While the novel bustles with surrealistic imagery in an admirable homage to his artistic influences, Dickey avoids the failures of other surrealist novels, which is the inability to communicate. The recurring spoon scene shared by grieving Sarah and her departed father is a particularly poignant incident of Dickey’s liberating transgression and bears quoting at length:

Sarah’s sitting in the kitchen now, examining the spoon. In the display case. Her father, sitting on the other side of the table, eyeballs her, then the spoon, as he tears into a New York strip […].
—There was lint.
—Where?
—Right there. On the corner.
—I’m thinking about building a sturdier case. Maybe putting some glass on it.
—That seems excessive.
—It’s a valuable piece.
—It’s a spoon.
—With Paul Revere’s maker’s mark.
—Are you shitting me?
—It’s worth tens of thousands, he says. —Easily.
—Bullshit.
—Look it up.
Patina darkens it, gives it an almost marbled-copper coat. It’s old, but otherwise undistinguished. Just a spoon. Nothing fancy or ornate. It seems mass produced, recent, like a piece from one of those “heirloom” sets sold door-to-door in the fifties.
—The mark’s on the back, her father says. —I’m thinking about mounting it so you can see it, maybe include a picture or a brief history, or … (location 72 to 81)

Immediately following this quote, Sarah’s father dissolves back into the surreal world of transformation. The mystery of the spoon is lost until much later in the novel, and even then is never fully consummated. “So, what is in this passage,” you ask, “nothing?” Indeed—exactly nothing, and so much more: a brilliant move! Dickey conscripts the reader’s desire and uses it to force her to face the permanent loss of a moment, without freedom from its reenactment. The reader is trapped in a lost connection.

Mundane moments in Flesh Made World are ecstatic because they mark the gravitational center around which the narrative unfolds. Dickey treats each lost connection with care, fetishizing them into talismans against the primordial violence of the unknown. But like any talisman, they are immune to rationale themselves. They are magic insofar as they are elements of the unknown. They cannot be assimilated into a logical worldview; they carry the darkness inside. When surrealism fails to communicate, it is a failure of fetishization. Dickey’s masterful interplay between surrealist dissolution and mundane, failed connections brilliantly circumvents this failure. It’s no wonder that Dickey chose to write a surrealist novel despite his acknowledgement that surrealism’s “potential is weakest in the written word.” He discovered, after all, an effective method for its salvation.

Of course, readers are free to enjoy Flesh Made World simply as a psychedelic romp if they choose. There’s plenty of exciting imagery in these pages to keep things interesting. Nevertheless, such a reader is certainly missing out. It will come to no surprise that Dickey wrote this during his father’s unexpected death. Only a true experience with grief could inspire such an unlaughing gaze at loss. His descriptions of depression are worthy of David Foster Wallace, and while Wallace embraces humor, he would certainly applaud Dickey’s eschewal of irony. Dickey’s seriousness won’t be music to every palette. But this particular reader believes we could use more writers like Dickey; writers unafraid to examine the things we imagine are best left hidden. Best left hidden until, that is, we realize they have already faded into lost connections.

(Daulton Dickey)

Buy Flesh Made World on Amazon

Works Cited

Dickey, Daulton. Flesh Made World. Rooster Republic Press, 2018.

Horkheimer, Max, and Theodor Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments. Edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr, Stanford University Press, 2002.